VEGETABLE GARDEN PLANS FOR 2019: PEPPERS

Peppers (Capsicum annuum)

In March of 2018, I wrote the post Pepper plans for 2018, bemoaning the fact that my 2017 garden had produced very few red ripe peppers, and I was dreaming of better success in my 2018 garden. Well, as can be seen in the photos below, it happened. Whether it was the weather or better timing or better soil, or a combination, by September my 2018 garden was producing fabulous red ripe peppers. Frying peppers, jalapeños, cayennes, pepperoncinis, and anchos. There was also an abundance of tasty immature green peppers earlier in the season. They were delicious although not so newsworthy as the red ripe peppers later in the season. Now I hope to do as well or perhaps exceed expectations with the 2019 pepper crop.

I made a few decisions last year that carry over into future gardens. I decided to try a non-rotational strategy for tomatoes and peppers. I also decided to grow peppers in grow bags with the bottoms cut open to allow moisture and earthworms into the bags. This year will be the first test of non-rotational growing, by which I mean that peppers will be planted in the same grow bags they grew in last summer. I do plan to replace some of the old soil in the grow bags with fresh soil from the garden mixed with compost. Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalog prescribes a 6.5 pH soil with abundant phosphorous and calcium for peppers, so I added small amounts of garden lime, rock phosphate, and oyster shells to the compost.

Pepper plants indoors under grow lights April 30, 2019

Peppers were planted indoors in a soilless growing mix on April 10. Their tray was placed on a heating pad and covered with a plastic dome to keep humidity high. After germination, they were placed under grow lights. When the first true leaves appeared, I thinned them to 2 in each small pot, as can be seen above on April 30. They are still in the soilless mix, which is a combination of peat mosses, compost, and perlite. When they are bigger, I will transplant them into larger pots in regular potting soil. Our frost date is around May 15, but I usually wait until the end of May to transplant peppers out into the grow bags. They can get hardened off in late May by taking them outside on nice days but bringing them in at night. I hope to do updates to this post as the season progresses, so please check back from time to time.

Cheyenne F1 cayenne chiles October 2, 2018. I’m retiring cayennes from the 2019 garden because we don’t need so many hot peppers, but I’m already feeling sad about my decision.

My 2019 pepper choices are the same as last year, except that I am retiring the cayenne peppers, as seen above. I love both the sight and taste of them, but with all the dietary issues in our family, we don’t need so many hot peppers. I’ll still grow habanero peppers, which are off-the-chart hot, for Mexican dishes. The jalapeños, ancho/poblanos, Havasus, and pepperoncinis are called hot rather than sweet, but to me they seem to be varying degrees of warm rather than hot.

But, first, the sweet bell peppers:

SWEET BELLS

Sweet Sunrise F1. Blocky to slightly elongated fruits. Flavor is fruity and sweet. 65 days to green; 85 to yellow ripe. Both green immature and yellow ripe peppers were produced throughout the 2018 season. Although the plants were robust, they did not produce many peppers. Perhaps the additional minerals mentioned above will help with yield in 2019.

Intruder F1. Large, blocky fruits with thick walls. 62 days to green; 72 to red ripe. Didn’t produce well in 2018 although the plants were robust. None turned red ripe. Why am I planting them again. Well, because I had leftover seed and couldn’t decide on a better alternative. So I will give them one more chance. Bad reasoning I know. No photos.

CORNO DI TOROS (bull’s horn)

Carmen F1 frying pepper. Best tasting sweet Italian frying pepper. Sweet flavor for salads and roasting. Tapered fruits averaging 6″ long and 2 1/2″ wide. 60 days to green; 80 days to red ripe. Carmen frying peppers make my miserable life without bountiful sweet bell peppers bearable. They are good green and incredibly delicious red. They can be used raw if needed, and are just fine for salsa if nothing else is available. They are at their best sautéd in olive oil with onions and served with sausage. Sautéd peppers and onions freeze well to bring back the taste of summer to winter stews and casseroles. I haven’t tried roasting them. Perhaps this summer I will. I love Carmen frying peppers in all their many uses.

SANTA FE (Guero Chiles)

Havasu F1. Thick-walled peppers, changing from pale yellow to orange to red. 60 days to pale yellow. 80 days to red ripe. As can be seen below, Havasu peppers were prolific in the 2018 garden throughout August and September. As I’ve confessed many times in my posts, I’m a pushover for names of vegetables. Havasu peppers bring back good memories for me of hiking in the Grand Canyon although I’ll admit I don’t know as much as I could about the Havasupai tribe or their surroundings. Havasu peppers in all their colors are tasty and dependable and will always be a part of my garden.

HOT PEPPERS

El Jefe F1 jalapeños. Speaking of great names for vegetables. The boss. The perfect name for a jalapeño. Best combination of earliness and yield for jalapeños. 67 days to green. 90 days to red ripe. Warm, not hot. Thick-walled. I had just 1 grow bag of jalapeños in the 2018 garden. It was enough for salsa, both fresh and frozen. Jalapeños are pretty much indispensable for salsa. You don’t need to have all jalapeños as peppers in a batch of salsa, but you need some to get the best warmth and flavor.

Helios F1 habaneros. Extra early and very hot. 67 days to green. 87 day to orange ripe. Just 1 small grow bag sufficed in the 2018 garden for the habaneros as well. Hot. Hot. Hot. A little goes a long way in most recipes. Always wear gloves when working with habaneros. I like to mince a few and freeze them in olive oil in small Mason jars. They can be chopped out with a sharp knife as needed throughout the winter. If I have any left after that, I let them dry in the kitchen. Then I either use them in cooking, or I crush them and spread them around in the compost piles where critters, mostly mice and chipmunks, are burrowing. Works really well. Cinnamon works well too, but I have to buy that. In the summer, sprigs of mint will keep critters out of the compost. I also have planted mint around the compost piles. It comes back each year and smells wonderful. But I digress. A few habaneros are a necessity in the garden, in my opinion. A few go a long way.

Baron F1 ancho/poblanos. Very large 2-lobed fruits. 65 days to green. 85 days to red ripe. I was favorably impressed with their yield and taste last summer. I tried roasting some. They were delicious. This summer I hope to become a master pepper roaster and try new recipes with red-ripe roasted anchos.

Baron ancho/poblanos October 2, 2018

Pepperoncini peppers from John Scheeper’s Kitchen Garden Seeds. These are the only pepper seed not from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. I had great good fortune with the pepperoncinis in the 2018 garden. Pepperoncinis should always be eaten red-ripe, not green. They are lovely cut up in a garden salad. Their history is still something of a mystery to me, like San Marzano tomatoes. Are they from a particular region. Are they open-pollinated. I hope to have answers this pepper season.

Below are photos of peppers and onions sautéd and put into Mason jars for freezing. Absolutely nothing, except perhaps frozen tomato sauce, brings back summer like they do. Remember that you don’t tighten the lids on Mason jars when using them for freezing.

I’ve been slow with publishing this post. Today in June 16, 2019. I just fertilized the peppers in their grow bags and watered them. We’ve had plenty of rain this spring, but the grow bags dry out quickly. I used an organic slow-release fertilizer. I’m not happy about using fertilizer, remembering what Eliot Coleman says about feeding the soil, not the plants. Possibly plants in grow bags require a little extra boost. I’m not sure. I may be over-compensating. I’m hoping for even more red-ripe and yellow-ripe peppers for summer eating and freezing for winter.

Below are photos of the peppers in their grow bags as of today, June 16, 2019. Looking good.

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